Knowing Him Better, Part 3

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“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:18-21).

There are a few things I know about God’s power from these verses:

Like intimacy with God, Paul prays that my heart and mind would have an ever growing understanding of the access I have to an incomparably great power in Christ. Throughout my life he speaks an ancient prayer to the Father asking for a growing understanding, a continuous action of this dynamic force in my life.

This power is incomparable to any other power I can imagine. I was in Portland in the early 80’s when Mount St. Helens erupted several times. As a city and a nation we watched in awe at the evening news as pictures and firsthand accounts were beginning to come in. Multiple cities in the Northwest were blanketed with ash – the remains of the inner bowels of a mountain. I have had opportunity to get up close to the mountain a few times since these initial blasts, which has magnified my perception of the amount of energy needed for the side of this great mountain to be removed. Magnified as it may be, I still “see in a mirror dimly” the might required to accomplish such a cataclysmic blast…. Well, apparently the power I (we) have access to through Christ is greater still – if I believe. Amazing!

Even more amazing is that this power in me is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and established His dominion over all other powers of the universe. Think of what was at stake in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. All the evil powers of Hell were called to action to prevent death from being defeated. They were no match. Those same dark forces are engaged in trying to prevent me from living a resurrected life. Thankfully, the same power of God used to raise Jesus is at hand for me and I have been raised from the death and devastation of my sin.

Yet, in spite of what I have been given – an unimaginable power – I still live day to day as if this power were a knick-knack on a shelf – pretty to look at but serving no real purpose. I, more often than not, run on my own capacity rather than on the promise of power given me by the Maker of All Power! I choose the covered wagon with a broken axle stuck in the mud rather than the Ferrari.

Oh the absurdity!

But my inner man really wants the Ferrari! I want the power of God in my life to be released. I want to love supernaturally. I want to do the unexpected. Where there is death I want to be an instrument of life. Where there is cursing I want to be a blessing. Where there is sin I want to extend mercy and forgiveness 70×7. When my brother or sister disappoints me I want to still believe that there is something greater in them and God will be faithful to release it. I want to be slow to judge, but discerning when a clear word is needed. When I am hated I want to be at peace with the hater. I want to have a heart formed by joy – even in the midst of great sorrow. I want to be salt. I want to be light. I want to be slow to anger and speech and quick to listen. I want my heart to be  pure, undistracted from all that draws my eyes away from seeing Jesus. I want to be undivided in my affections. I want my marriage to be marked by ever growing intimacy and void of indifference. I want my good works to be done in such a way that I remain obscure and Father receives His due. I want to believe that in this great power I can say to this mountain move and it will be done. I want my mind to be shaped by the mind of God. I want to be a man of faith, anxious for nothing. I want to keep on asking; keep on seeking; keep on knocking for the riches Father wants to impart to me. I want to believe that God is always a good Father. This is the Rock I want my house built upon.

“And all this is from God…”

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing ; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” A.W. Tozer, Pursuit of God”

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Too Close for Comfort

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“The discretion of a man defers his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). 

“A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). 

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end…. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:1-5).

During the course of our marriage one of the more embarrassing revelations of myself is the level of insecurity I feel when Robyn disapproves of a choice I have made. I get mad and unsettled when she is mad or unsettled – sometimes even when it has nothing to do with me. I then go through a whole series of rationalizations – both internal and external in an effort to refute her displeasure. I think I am re-establishing my secure place with her (usually by trying to prove I was right) when in truth I am fortifying a pattern of behavior that needs to be demolished.

There are times when I am “too united” to Robyn, though it is not a real union at all. Marital harmony is not to be confused with uniformity and enmeshment. In its truest form, marital unity is grounded in our differences and the fullness we can bring to one another out of those differences. When I am too attached to Robyn I take too much ownership for her feelings, both the negative and positive. Do you see how that is a reflection of my self-orientation? The result – I cannot fully hear her heart because I am too emotionally attached; my defenses are too reactive. My identity is muddied by her approval or disapproval (By the way – my relationship with Robyn is not the only place where this misplaced identity is found. I do it with you too.).

Jesus modeled for us the reality that the more independent we are the more capable of loving we become. That sounds odd doesn’t it? Wasn’t Jesus the model of selflessness and love? How can I say He was independent? Wouldn’t it seem that becoming more independent leads us in the opposite direction of the Christian standard of union in marriage – “… and the two shall become one flesh…” (Genesis 2:24)? How can I be fully united to Robyn while being fully autonomous?

“Apples and oranges.”

Of course it is true that I am called to “give myself up” for the sake of my marriage (Ephesians 5:1, 21, 26). The only way Robyn and I can come to a place of harmony is for us to mutually sacrifice and join ourselves to one another. But to achieve this denial and union there must be a kind of “holy separation” between us. When I reflect on the times she and I function in disharmony it is largely due to one or both of us being too attached to what the other is saying. Reconciliation begins to occur when we become less reactive (more independent) to one another.

Think about it this way. If Robyn cuts her finger I will respond to her pain with emotional empathy that moves me to assist her in “stopping the bleeding”, but I will not bleed myself. I will not flinch and pull back from the pain she is uniquely experiencing. Why? Because we have “separate” central nervous systems. Imagine what it would be like if we felt every ache and pain our spouses experienced – not to mention our children, close friends and others we serve. We would experience a physical and emotional overload. As important as empathy may be (and it is important), it is equally important for us not to get “triggered” by the thoughts and feelings of one another. Getting triggered or reactive is a sign that I am “too close”.

I think Jesus was an expert at achieving this balance. When He was tempted in the wilderness, He was so in tune with the Father that He felt no need to go on and on in deflecting Satan’s attacks. He simply yet firmly said, “It is written….” He did not see these accusations as challenging to Him because He was infused with power from the Father and He knew who He was. He was “separate” from the temptations and the one who stated them. In John 13 (quoted above) it states that Jesus was empowered by the Father, knew where He had come from and where He was going. He was not reliant upon the status others would impart to Him. Therefore, He was able to take the form of a servant and wash the feet of His disciples. He called us to do the same.

There will be times in marriage when we can hear our spouse as the accuser or as the confused disciple (Peter) reacting to what he thought he understood. If we are too close it is likely we will respond to such things in sharpness, retaliation and arrogance. But if we hold firm to our identity as empowered disciples and confident children of God we will respond to one another in the calmness indicative of mature love.

Lord, may we ever find our identity and rest in you. Give us the type of independence that allows us to respond with grace not aggravation; stillness not worry; true empathy not people-pleasing. All this that our marriages may be a place of safe union and point to your kind of Love. Amen.

Further reading: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein

Knowing Him Better, Part 2

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“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…” (Ephesians 1:18).

“It is possible, it seems, to affirm everything the creed says—especially Jesus’s “divine” status and his bodily resurrection—but to know nothing of what the gospel writers were trying to say. Something is seriously wrong here.” N.T. Wright

Faith is “locking eyes” with God…. As two lovers look across a crowded room and communicate “a knowing” of one another; an understanding that is spoken without and beyond words. So it is to be with Christ. He knows me and I know Him.

Knowing God has as its foundation an ever-growing “head knowledge” of the Scriptures. There is no substitute for this. But we must not be content with information. Information has never changed the heart of man. Information about God must be transformed into an experienced and ever increasing relationship with Him. Having an intimate walk with God is His idea. He longs for this closeness more than you or I. We cheat ourselves and cheapen the grandness of our Lord’s work when we remain content in the one dimensional sphere of the intellect.

Paul prays that the seat of our true understanding would be increasingly illuminated and thus the things of God made more evident and manifest. Specifically, he prays for enlightenment that would lead to a fuller absorption of what we can expect, even anticipate as believers in the reign of God. This is our calling – that we would know this hope; that we would fully comprehend the meaning and purpose God has initiated in our lives. This meaning is centered in the piercing infusion of our hearts with a knowledge of the legacy He has bestowed on all of us – His glorious inheritance in the saints.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

Part of the profundity of marriage is the opportunity we have to practice this glory in the day to day “routines” of life. What affect would a mutual meditation on the Lord’s glory have on the grace and power with which we communicate with one another? How would His glory affect our respect for one another; our willingness to sacrifice our wants for the other; our desire to maintain purity and elevate intercourse into the Holy? How would we lead? How would we submit? What new levels of service would we render one another if we regularly gazed into the Holy of Holies? May we take full advantage of our unveiled faces and allow His Spirit of freedom to give deep understanding into the specifics of how our marriages may move from glory to glory.

Lord, words are too small to describe what You have bestowed upon us! Please accept our feeble attempts to honor You for the glory You have covered us in! Today allow every marriage that acknowledges You as its foundation to dare to enter into Your Holiness; dare to live in Your glory; dare to live in the full understanding of the hope we have inherited in You. To this end we seek You alone. Amen.

Hashtag Christianity

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Loved Stephen’s honesty about how we really live. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:14-20).

Stephen Mattson

I watch sports, take care of my kids, go on date nights with my wife, wait in traffic for hours, work long shifts at my job, and waste a lot of time taking naps — not necessarily in that order. I love my life, but when I flip open my laptop I suddenly become a different person.

I have multiple online identities, the result of subconsciously trying to be a better version of myself — a better follower of Christ. But these various personalities that I portray among social media sites are fabrications. Here are a few examples why:

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